Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Google caves in on Chinese Censorship


















Google has agreed to censoring the search results obtained using its Google China search engine in return for being allowed to host their service on local servers. The Chinese Government is often criticised for setting up the 'Great Firewall of China', and has warned Google that it may be blocked before now, as Google serves up results relating to sensitive subjects for the Communist regime, including those relating to the events in Tiananmen Square.

MSN and Yahoo! are among the international search engines to have already pandered to China's demands to help censor the internet, as well as Baido, the local market leader. Today, Google released a statement to CNN saying:

In order to operate from China, we have removed some content from the search results available on Google.cn, in response to local law, regulation or policy," a Google statement said.
While removing search results is inconsistent with Google's mission, providing no information (or a heavily degraded user experience that amounts to no information) is more inconsistent with our mission.

As an emerging economic powerhouse, China is developing rapidly, thanks in no small measure to the Internet," Google said. "We firmly believe, with our culture of innovation, Google can make meaningful and positive contributions to the already impressive pace of development in China.

I can understand Google's motivation for agreeing to censor their Chinese search results. According to Google Blogoscoped, Google already blocks Nazi websites in Germany, where they are illegal. If Google want to operate within a country that has censoring laws, no matter where they lie on the spectrum of curbing freedom of speech, they have to follow them. The question for me is whether or not they should operate from countries such as China with laws clearly designed to keep the existing government in power, and to inhibit dissent from the 'party line'. It is a grey area, as on the one hand they are indirectly supporting the policies of the Chinese Government, yet on the other hand, they are providing a very useful service to the Chinese people.

I really have no idea what the right thing to do is, but there will be many people questioning whether Google has adhered to its motto of 'Don't be evil' in this decision.


1 comment:

halfswitcher said...

The question for me is should they operate from countries such as China with laws blatantly designed to keep the existing government in power, and to inhibit dissent from the 'party line'. It's hazy, as on the one hand they are sort of supporting the terms of the Chinese Government, yet on the other hand, they are providing a useful service to the Chinese people.